Know-It-All: Why Doesn’t Vancouver Have a Mascot?

We can't think of any better use of our tax dollars, honestly.

First: It’s upsetting that Furries have ruined mascot-enthusiasm for the rest of us. I don’t want to “yuck anyone’s yum,” as sex educators put it (though I think we can all agree that phrase is as “yuck” as it gets?), but now I find myself having to write a disclaimer to affirm that there is no unsavoury reason for this being the second column about mascots I’ve written in recent memory (the first, tracking the whereabouts of the Vancouver Olympic mascots). Mascots and I are really just friends! Best friends!

With that out of the way, I can finally, confidently, tell you about the greatest day of my life. No, it was not my daughter’s birth. That was really painful and gross! Don’t be dumb! The greatest day of my life was when I attended the 2018 Tokyo Mascot Grand Prix. The Grand Prix was a festival with 200-plus mascots from all over Japan, representing everything from car dealerships (a chicken with cars for feet) to educational institutions (a lobster with a lab coat) to a hangover cure (a human man named Kimberly). The stars were truly out to play—among them, mascots repping various Japanese cities. If you want people to get invested in civic politics, this is the answer. I saw Kumamon— Kumamoto’s celebrity black bear mascot—being chased by a frenzied crowd, Beatlemania-style, into a hot air balloon, where he finally made his escape (back to… city hall?). I can say with certainty this has never happened to Mayor Sim.

So why don’t we have a Vancouver mascot? Because we live in boring North America, where politicians would rather spend our tax dollars on “maintaining the roads” than on “sunglasses for an anthropomorphic rapping salmon.” While civic mascots are just a normal part of life in luckier parts of the world, in Vancouver, we have to make do with de facto ambassadors like Dude Chilling Park statue or Unsanctioned Tarantula Art By the SkyTrain. They’re doing the best they can, but the job of personifying Vancouver is a heavy burden to carry—one that should, in this reporter’s opinion, be held by a pair of oversized novelty gloves.

That being said, we’ve come close to having an official plush consul. In 1986, there was Expo Ernie, a lovable astronaut character created to promote Expo 86. But he didn’t stick around—maybe he realized that Vancouver doesn’t have a space program and felt limited by the scarce career opportunities? (Or was it simply the high cost of living? I’ll have to turn to the archives to see if he published one of those “Why I’m breaking up with Vancouver” stories.)

Illustration: Byron Eggenschwiler

Another local mascot introduced that same year was Tillicum the Sea Otter, a whiskery extrovert on a mission to build some buzz about Vancouver’s 100th anniversary: attending ribbon-cuttings, glad-handing city councillors—basically everything Mayor Sim does now, but without the voting privileges. (Probably a good thing, given Tillicum’s controversial take on gun safety.) The character was retired by the time Vancouver turned 101, though the Museum of Vancouver collection still has both the costume itself and a made-to-measure  otter tuxedo. Fourteen years later, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic mascots made a brief but indelible impression on the city, but since Quatchi returned to his home planet, this prestigious role has been vacant. (The “Pee” and “Poo” mascots that the edgelords at Metro Vancouver dared to introduce in 2019 for a plumbing awareness campaign do not count.)

There are many Vancouver organizations that have stepped up where governments have failed, creating great mascots of their own to help bridge the gap. To name a few, there’s the Canadians’ rakish Chef Wasabi; the Port’s Salty the Seagull (the only mascot in history to pull off the wide-legged pant trend); and, of course, Happy Planet’s Gregor Robertson.

But, if I may be an entitled millennial for a moment, I don’t want a mascot who represents corporate interests, or sports, or the most diversified cargo-handling port in North America connecting to an average of 155 global trading economies annually—I want a mascot who represents me, an average Vancouver citizen! Someone who could really make a mark on the next Tokyo Mascot Grand Prix, were it not recently shut down due to overly fierce competition. It could be a coyote head on the body of the Science World orb, whatever, just so long as it loves craft beer and bikes, is always rocking Blundstones, and is desperate for you to understand she is not and has never been a Furry.